SF Trip

I stopped sharing food from trips (I was in France in July, London a bunch more times and a few other cities this year) but I just came back from an epic SF trip filled with lots of friends, laughter, too much wine, tacos and even more tacos. It was my first trip back home (I grew up in the Bay Area) and way too short but much, much needed. I have lots to update including one of my most memorable and delicious meals at State Bird Provisions but until I get around to editing, posting the photos, here are some quick snaps.

In San Francisco, even the hot dog stands serve food that is locally sourced, organic, grass-fed.

I ate way too many salads than I care to admit. But, the produce in California is really something special. The greens are so crisp, flavorful and delicious. That’s my salad from The Rotunda restaurant inside Neiman Marcus. The food is reallllllly tasty there. It’s a bit fancy though. More on that later.
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That’s my salad that came with my lunch at Boots and Shoe in Oakland. One of my best friends used to live in the neighborhood which is really cute and the food at Boots is super yummy. More on that later too.

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I trolled the markets at Rockridge Market Hall where friends fed me the tastiest meat from Marin Sun Farms. They have a great story so do please check out their site. The produce there was also, really something else.

I really missed the wine and cheese in the Bay Area, of course I had to put together a spread. On top is Cowgirl Creamery (one of the most loved cheese makers in California)’s standard Mt. Tam. The middle (and one of my favorites) is Humboldt Fog. Also another super popular and beloved local goat. It’s a very beautiful cheese. And the one on the bottom is a sharp cheddar – forgot where it was from but, it was the Whole Foods’ cheese monger’s #1 recommendation for cheddars.

Ahhhh I’m getting hungry writing this.
Stay tuned for more SF eats. I really, really, really, missed the Bay Area.

Singaporean Chicken Lunch Deal


One of the best things about Japan are lunch deals where normal dinner prices are slashed from 40-60%. Mega popular Hainan Ji Fun Shokudō (shokudō is cafeteria in Japanese) is Singaporean chicken and rice. Duh, the photo speaks for itself.

Well, Singaporean chicken and rice to suit the Japanese palate, to be precise. The usually fragrant herbs that profile the slightly bland chicken are subdued. Also there isn’t enough fat on the meat.

I get how Japanese like subtle tastes but for someone who spent an extended period of time in SE Asia, loved the food, the chicken and rice places suffice a craving but I just can’t help but wish for more… punch. 

Good news is the condiment refills are free, so if all else fails, douse your chicken in ginger and chili oil for extra taste.

Dinner gets a bit pricey so I only go for lunch.

Hainan Ji Fun Shokudō
Drop this in Google Maps ↓
東京都渋谷区恵比寿1-21-14
M – F
Lunch: 11:30 AM – 2:00 PM (last order at 1:30 PM)
Dinner: 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM (last order at 10:00 PM)
Sat., Sundays, Holidays
Lunch: 11:30 AM – 3 PM (last order at 2:30 PM)
Dinner: 6 PM – 11 PM (last order at 10:00 PM)

What to order: lunch special on the chalkboard (not on menu)

Kawaii Monster Cafe

The double doors open and we are greeted by this towering boy dressed in cylinder block sized platform shoes with rainbow colored hair and rainbow makeup on his eyes and lips and cheeks that matched.

We enter the main room and seconsory overload: colossal neon pink and green and orange and yellow plastic bunny rabbits and cupcakes and ice cream and things that look like a cross between a dessert and some mythical creature take up the entire space. While we are still gawking, we are ushered into this huge plastic tentacle cocoon that wraps around the bar. The tentacles are lit by these neon lights and I don’t even know what is going on. This place does not seem real.

I look around to the other guests and spot a table filled with girls who look like they are 12, all wearing the same kind of choir girl dresses: thick white collars, shaped like a bell. They all have similar bows in their jet black hair and their faces look exactly the same. They don’t look real. My date called them creepy — like robots.

I think my eyes were wide, jaw dropped for about 15 minutes and when I finally situated myself, the bartender walks us through the menu on their custom iPad. The food and drinks are exacly like the place: colorful, whimsical, loud.

This place has to be one of the weirdest places I have ever been in my entire life. It’s like a psychedelic Alice in Wonderland meets Clockwork Orange crossed with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Murakami.

Words can not do this place justice; just go. You won’t regret it.

Kawaii Monster Cafe (opened August 1st)
Drop this in Google Maps ↓
渋谷区神宮前4-31‐10
Website: http://kawaiimonster.jp/

 

Super Mega Early Tsukiji


More visuals from backlog posts continue as I sort through photos from my old phone… Here are the photos I took from this post in which I finally went to the tuna auction at the butt crack of dawn. I don’t even remember taking the photo up top but, it came out pretty legit.

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Beautiful tuna sashimi pieces (that again, I do not recall taking) from the breakfast sushi. My defective phone camera worked perfectly whenever it felt like it I guess because this one isn’t blurry. I’m actually shocked by how it turned out!

And in case you’re interested, more photo dumps after the jump…

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Gen Yamamoto Pt. II and My Defective Phone 


My name is Gen. うん。Just Gen. Not like Genjamin  (Benjamin) or something.” he said with a smirk. And I was like 😍 then I just may have captured the only photo of him smiling while pouring.

***

What a miracle! My lost phone was found and turned into the police station. I immediately tweeted my first reaction when I got the call the phone was found ↓

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And well, I didn’t really want it back because I thought it would mean I had to give my brand new replacement back. Great news is, I don’t have to! And I was able to retrieve the photos I took but compared to the photos I’m taking with my new phone, I’m kind of embarrassed to share them…

So I will selectively share some. I guess. Here are two from the cocktail tasting ↓

The whiskey shaved ice cocktail on the left, the edamame cocktail on the right. I think you can see the bits of the sencha floating.

And one more of the stunning Mizunara bar top and Gen-san ❤️

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Bonus: in case you lose something, here are photos of the Tokyo Lost and Found Center. Turns out, my phone was delivered to their HQ. It’s pretty neat I’ve gotten access to a lot of official buildings and such because I lose my phone. Last year, I saw the bullet train depot in Okayama.

Defective iPhone 6+ and a Hidden Piece of Heaven

First photos I’m sharing from my new phone and WOW what a difference. As it turns out, losing my phone was a blessing in disguise. Several weeks ago, I saw some news in passing about how a limited number of cameras on iPhone 6 Pluses were defective. (Just google: ‘iPhone 6 plus defective camera’ and you’ll land on a bunch of results.)

Turns out, mine was one.

Apple’s replacement program requires me to ship my phone to them. I didn’t want to be without a phone for a few days so I chose to live with blurry photos. Ummmmm what a colossal mistake. I mean, look at these photos! Such a massive difference from all the photos on this blog!! These are the best photos I’ve taken in almost a year and finally see what the fuss over this phone is about — WTF APPLE!!

I guess everything happens for a reason.

By the way, these photos are from a coffee shop I stumbled upon. They just opened in July and I still don’t want to share yet, as many people have yet to discover it. For now.
  

Tote About Tokyo in a Rolls-Royce Phantom

This post may strike as misplaced as it has nothing to do with food or booze or Internet or Japan but, as the yen is weak, it may serve as interest to those planning a Tokyo visit and feel like splurging. 

Last week an acquaintance was in town and he picked me up in a chauffeured Phantom for dinner. A little excessive? Perhaps. But he was on holiday so “douchebaggery is accepted” he said, when I wondered out loud to him: “WHY???

A little known fact is that The Peninsula Hotel chain offers chauffeur services at almost all of their locations. The hotel shuttles guests to and from the airport or around town. Of course the service is complimentary if you stay in a suite.

With 30 Rolls-Royce Phantoms, The Peninsula Hotel in Macau owns the largest fleet. Compared to Macau, The Peninsula Hotel in Tokyo is like the red-headed step child with only a few bespoke Rolls-Royce Extended Wheelbase Phantoms, BMW 740i sedans and a Tesla Model S.

But, what The Peninsula Tokyo does have is a 1934 vintage Rolls-Royce Phantom II. After the driver of my acquaintance’s vehicle briefly touched on this information, I thanked him for his candor, left it at that and called the hotel to confirm the next day. I didn’t want to leave my dinner date out of the conversation — the driver and I were speaking in rapid Japanese. The lady at the transportation desk informed me they do indeed have a vintage Rolls-Royce. Sadly, she didn’t have (or couldn’t disclose?) details of the vehicle.

For all things cars I turn to my brother for help (he’s in the business) and together we googled images, compared and contrasted search results of 1934 Phantom IIs to the photo of the Phantom II on the hotel website. We picked apart headlights, grills, wheelbases, drop tops, and concluded The Peninsula Tokyo’s vintage PII is either a 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Sedanca Build Coupe, Gurney Nutting or  the 20/25 Barker Sedanca (We can’t tell if it’s a full convertible or if the drop top covers just the driver’s side. My brother said he’s 99% sure it’s driver part only but there’s a 1% chance it is not.)

Unlike modern day cars, pre-war luxury cars were sold very differently. Car makers made and sold certain parts of the car and had specialist makers called coachbuilders custom design and build other parts. In the case of the Rolls-Royce Phantom II, the chassis (framework) and mechanical parts (engine, etc.) were made and sold to customers by Rolls. The new owners then contracted coachbuilders to build and fit the body. There are several well known coachbuilders like H.J. Mulliner, Sedanca, Figoni et Falaschi and my brother’s favorite: Saoutchik “because they’re so crazy” he says. This is the reason pre-war cars have ultra long names, like The Peninsula Hotel Tokyo’s Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Sedanca Build Coupe, Gurney Nutting or  1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II 20/25 Barker Sedanca phew.

Aside from the various builds, the levels of customization is so deep, I thought it would be near impossible to pin down exactly what the car is from the hotel’s photo but I think we nailed this one. (Thanks brother with zero online presence!!)

Sadly, guests purchasing the wedding package are the only ones who have access to the vintage Phantom II but apparently, the hotel sometimes displays it. The lady at the hotel’s transportation desk mumbled displaying the prized car is dependent on the weather.

Personally, I much prefer the 1960 Mercedes limo offered by the Amansara hotel in Cambodia. How cool is this car?!


At any rate, if you are planning a trip to Tokyo, feeling a bit exuberant, The Peninsula Tokyo has a few modern Rolls-Royce Phantoms (I didn’t ask for the years, I felt as though I was pestering with too many questions about the vintage model), BMW 740i-s, and Tesla Model Ss to tote you about town. Why not experience rolling through Tokyo ballin’ while the yen is, well, shit.

Crass end to a classy post; I strategically misbehave 😉

The Peninsula Hotel Tokyo
transportation service information (English) ↓
http://tokyo.peninsula.com/en/special-offers/Transportation


 

Bonus: for car nerds, my brother and I ended up chatting about cars for hours. The funniest one he showed me was this one ↓

My immediate response: It looks like a piece of maguro!  (Tuna). Apparently this car is massive, longer than an airport shuttle van — he’s seen the actual one on display at the Blackhawk Classic Car museum — and to entertain my ignorance, even called it a ‘ginormous maguro’. Siblings are the best.

Still, even if I poked fun at a handsome vehicle and called it a piece of sushi, it is such a stunning car. I look at these classics and can’t help but think, what a time to live! So glamorous and old Hollywood. Sometimes I day dream of life in that era and how I would give anything to transport back in time for a day. Then I remember that Asians in America back in those days were railroad workers and farmers and just like that, I am catapulted back to reality, grateful to live in modern times.

Amazing how quickly the world has progressed in such a short period of time, isn’t it?

Gen Yamamoto in the Typhoon

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All we could do, is laugh. As we rush out of my favorite fish on sticks place* to hail a cab, the rain is coming down mean and hard. The sidewalks are overfilling with steep puddles and I swear I see Noah’s Arc with elephants and giraffes lined up two-by-two heading our way.

Should I call an Uber?” he asks. “This is Tokyo. Ubers are unnecessary.” I say. He looks back at me a bit skeptical and just when he was about to whip out his phone I spy an empty cab I successfully flag down. “See?” I say and he smiles, holds the umbrella up near the door as I rush in. Even with him shielding the rain with our shared umbrella, the downpour is so aggressive I’m immediately drenched. He climbs in after me making sound effects. He is wetter than I. We look at each other and laugh. The cab driver laughs — first at his gibberish, then with us as I say, “only thing left to do is laugh.

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200th Post and an Ode to the Tsukiji Fish Market

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200th post on this little blog of mine, thank you to those reading and especially those who leave a comment or two. It’s nice to know there are actually people out there interested in Japan and Japanese food. Updating this blog has been so much fun and I love sharing things about my culture, country, people and especially foods! Also, I’m such a food nerd and on occassion include things unrelated to Japan, so again, thank you to those who continuously read and check this site.

On this (self-proclaimed) special occasion, I am going to share something that I’ve been hesitating to share for quite some time; since May, to be precise. A huge part of the struggle is because I don’t want to ruin the magic for those who are visiting or planning to visit Tokyo and… Tsukiji.

Early this year, I started a pet project: Mission Daily Tsukiji in which I was determined to get to know the market inside-out before they move. What initiated this was a random solo visit after several extremely sour experiences. Going to the market alone felt like I was visiting some place completely different and fell head over heels in love.

After a week of research (googling, reading tons of blogs but in the end, I bought four Tsukiji guides in Japanese) gained enough confidence in my command of the market. Tsukiji is pretty overwhelming and once I’m standing inside of the market, everything I thought I knew or remember flies out of my head and I wander around lost, not knowing where to go or what to eat. So I built a plan.

Several months of daily visits to the stores and markets, eating at almost all the sushi places and non-sushi places including random food stands, getting to know the people of the market and asking them where their favorite places are and eating at those places, I got to know the market extremely well and realized something quickly.

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Tsukiji Tuna Auction

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Photo courtesy of Naveen

It’s an ungodly hour in Tokyo but the fish market is alive and buzzing. We get there at 3:30am but barely make the cut into the second group to view the tuna auction. We walk through the door and given vests. The first group is bright green. We, the second group, put on blue ones. The room looks like a pretty big storage room cleaned out and turned into a waiting room. Hard concrete floors, bright halogen lights and white walls makes the room more reminiscent of a looney bin. I am the only Japanese and almost feel like a refugee waiting for Japanese immigration to give me permission to enter the country. It is not a pleasant experience. 

The holding room.

Apparently, I texted a friend this photo who kindly sent it back to me. Sort of hilarious this is the only photo I have after my big, sad ordeal. We’ve been sitting around this room for hours and finally the first group goes out into the auction room. We stand around for a few more minutes and it’s our turn.

Being the only Japanese is a bit of a blessing and a curse. The workers are shocked a Japanese national is actually participating in the auction viewing but more so, I learn things I perhaps would rather not know. There are the things I learned.

Heads up: this may take the magic out of the experience if you are planning to go so I’m putting it behind a jump.

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